Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I have received many emails about some idiot posting this photo in BME's tattoo gallery (Feb. 24, 2009):

The caption says:

While spending some time in Japan, I was lucky enough to get the kanji for "Dragon soul" tattooed on my arm at a studio in Tokyo. The artist helped me translate the phrase into kanji.
(Tokyo, JP)

Hmm.... but does he really think it means "Samurai" or "Dragon soul"? The story is a bit inconsistent. Or does he really know his tattoo 外人 really means "foreigner" and is he just yanking our chains?

Anyway, it's funny either way.


  1. oh yeah that's pretty funny. but i guess if you can't trust a japanese tatoo artist in japan, who can you trust??? :)

  2. @LinguaFranca86,

    That is assuming whoever posted the photo & caption is telling the truth.

    Or, he is pulling a prank.

  3. Yes, I'm pretty sure it is a silly prank. But it is just so astonishingly stupid and random for someone to actually go out and get a tattoo (or perhaps a simulated tattoo) saying "foreigner" on their arm, just for the purpose of falsely claiming that they were wrongly tattooed by a tattooist in Japan.

    I am pretty sure that would not happen. Most tattoo artists in Japan are very serious about their work and they would never intentionally

  4. Like you said, funny either way!

  5. Hahaha. Great one. Although seeing a authentic Kanji tattoo feel kinda refreshing after seeing so many bad imitations.

  6. I would just like to say that I think this blog is awesome. I love when people get kanji wrong on them. I don't think they realize that not only do the characters have a literal meaning, but they have connotations as well... Something you should study deeply before you get the character permanently tattooed....

  7. At least its good calligraphy.

  8. I saw this yesterday--figured you'd already gotten enough emails about it by now. Also, it struck me as a little too ridiculous; I think it's more likely the person with the tattoo knows full well what it means (though I doubt he understands the connotations and implications of it) and concocted the story just for a few laughs. K

  9. Samurai 武士
    Dragon soul 龙灵 or 龙魂?

  10. @Yorck:

    Technically "samurai" is written with one of the characters 侍 or 士 in Japanese.

    武士 is 'bushi' as in 'bushido' [武士道], and it means warrior, but in the context of Japan, it would mean what we would call a samurai in English, although the characters 武士 are not pronounced 'samurai' in Japanese.


  11. Um, is it just me, or does that look like a shoop? The area around the tattoo is very blurred and hairless, and not in a 'I just shaved' sort of way...

    Either way, if it's genuine, surely he can't have known. Who would have 'foreigner' tattooed just to amuse people on the internet?

  12. @tian: ah yes it could be prank. Magic markers and too much beer maybe?

    btw, LOVE the site. keep it up.
    know you've read this alot, but it's true. :)

  13. I think "外人" or "外國人" should become the only Chinese/Kanji tattoo given to white ppl.

  14. 外人(gaijin) could mean "foreigner" if it is short for 外国人(gaikokujin). But it could just as easily mean "outsider" and is sometimes used as an insult, which I think is the case.

  15. rolf.
    When i first saw the picture i was like, "wtf? some tattoed gai-jin -- outside person -- on his ribcage?"

    He deserved it, for wanting to tattoo something stupid as "dragon soul" on himself.

    As a comfort i can say that the SOTO/HOKA or in this case, GAI character is based on the ancient chinese diviners/fortune-teller. And the other part of it is based on a rising moon to form evening. These put together and you get outside, since the diviners usually where outside during the evening.


  16. I'm pretty divided on this one. Tattoos in Japan are uncommon, because they're strongly associated with the yakuza. As far as I know, yakuza tattoos are usually home jobs, not done in public parlors.

    But if he was dumb enough to wander into a yakuza-run tattoo parlor, well, I'm ot surprised that this is the result.

  17. Maybe he was once a fan of the band Foreigner...and is now, rightfully, ashamed. So he made up the Dragon Soul story so women would never know he was once that lame.

    Just a thought...

  18. Zen Angel,

    Maybe he was once a fan of the band Foreigner...That's funny! But seriously, the name of the band Foreigner is written フォリナー [forinaa] in Japanese. I wonder how you would write it in Chinese...?


  19. Foolish gaijin!

    Why would one ever even think about getting a tattoo in any language without knowing EXACTLY what it means literally and socially?

    But anywho, that is the most hilarious practical joke I have ever seen. Especially considering that 外人 is a common insult to describe anyone who isn't completely Japanese. Good stuff!